Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Creativity will replace knowledge era

Creativity will replace knowledge era
By Pichaya ChangsornThe NationPublished on July 9, 2008

'Unbox' your ideas to come up with concepts that can change businesses

Creativity consultant Sarun Chantapalaboon believes the time of the knowledge-based economy is over and it is now the turn of the "creativity-based" society.
"In the knowledge age, those who knew more were the winners. But with an overflow of information, of which there are abundant sources [and] things we would like to know, the world has moved into a creativity-based [society].
"The winners become those who can bring in information and create [further ideas] from it," he said.
Sarun, whose company 37.5 Degree Celsius provides creativity-development programmes to various organisations, cited a study which showed that 86 per cent of successful people have two capabilities in common - relationships and creativity.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," Sarun says, quoting Albert Einstein.
Sarun believes creativity is necessary for every organisation, department and the people in them. This is because people have to keep thinking innovatively and doing things differently in a bid to deliver better results. He considers a few points:
Why an organisation is not creative: The first question to ask is why the organisation failed to be creative. Sarun says there are at least three factors necessary for an organisation to turn creative - creative thinking, creative leadership and creative processes.
"First, the staff lack in creative thinking. But in some cases, the staff are creative but every time they submit the ideas to their bosses, the ideas are shot down," he said.
The bosses - no matter what their level - should undergo a creative-leadership training. Also, the organisation's processes should be adjusted to facilitate the flow of creative ideas - implementing and rewarding good suggestions.
Creative thinking: Sarun said it is interesting to learn that most Thais think they are not creative and because of their thinking, they seem not so creative. "We were creative when we were children, but lost this quality as we grew up. The fact is the right side of the brain has not gone anywhere."
Talking about "unboxed thinking", Sarun often asks his students to begin by thinking about some easy matters that they cannot sort out. This allows them to question whether "[they] can't think or [they] don't let their thoughts come out".
The tactic is to "unbox" your thinking, he says.
The "frames" that box in most people's creativity usually include self-censorship, sticking to their image, desire to impress others or fear. Sarun's technique is to "light the candle" by making people ask four questions: What am I afraid of? So what? Is it valid? and... Can it cause my death?
Sarun said that to come up with a creative idea, one should use both divergent and convergent thinking in conjunction with the "6Fs", which comprises OF (objective finding), FF (fact finding), PF (problem finding), IF (idea finding), SF (solution finding) and AF (acceptance finding).
A technique for finding new ideas is to:
-- Ask: What we have done? Why? What else we can do?
-- Intend to reject the old, known ways. This will encourage people to think of new methods.
-- Think "outside the box". A technique is to think "outer space" first and screen out ideas that are impractical.
Creative case studies: "Do you know the first Nike shoes came after an experiment involving pouring rubber into a standard waffle iron?" Sarun asked participants attending his course held at Baan Rai Coffee recently.
While having breakfast, a Nike founder, who had been thinking of how to come up with better running shoes, realised that the "waffle" tread pattern might be a solution. The idea revolutionised running shoes.
"This tells us that creative ideas can come up every minute, even during breakfast. You [need not] worry your staff won't have time to think," he said.
Citing a local example, Sarun spoke about Honda, to whose motorcycle-factory staff 37.5 Degree Celsius recently provided a creative-training course. "There was a process that required the workers to turn the engine upside down every time. But [the workers] came up with an idea to put a mirror under [the motorcycle and thus did not need to turn the engine upside down any more]."
To implement the creativity-development programme, the working atmosphere should also be enhanced. The company may set up a steering committee to launch the creativity campaign, which will encourage the staff to bring up new ideas. The employees may be allowed to submit their new ideas across their functions and responsibilities. This is because the new idea may not come out if the staff think they have to implement every idea they suggest by themselves.
Some organisations even put it in as part of the job descriptions that employees must regularly come up with new ideas.
"In some organisations, this has created a 'black market', wherein the staff buy ideas from others. But it's alright, as it helps create an 'atmosphere' where people talk about new ideas instead of talking about something else," he said.
And then, to keep the momentum going, a reward system should be initiated. But monetary rewards are not advisable, as research shows they do more harm than good.
Some companies have created interesting reward schemes - Walt Disney shuts its theme park for a while so that the employees can bring in their families and friends; Cooper Tyres allows the staff to stamp their initials inside the tyres.
Other ideas include opening a pub account, providing a horoscope, issuing a company yearbook, providing a special parking lot, among others.

How do you tell your 'creative' boss that you have an idea?

Having a boss who is dull is one problem. But having a boss who thinks he is creative is a problem of a different order.
Citing a study that shows a man at 40 would have lost 97 per cent of the creativity he had when he was seven, 37.5 Degree Celsius chief learning officer Sarun Chantapalaboon says leaders should allow the younger staff to express their creativity.
"The boss should not initiate his own ideas because he would bemoan his thoughts. He should blend his experience with ideas sourced from his staff," he said.
The "creative leadership" should comprise three mindsets. First is curiosity. The leader should often say "Eh!" to the staff and encourage them to think further. Second is tenacity. The leader should be persistent with new ideas. Sarun said, for example, a carbonated soft drink originated from an effort to develop a new mouthwash, but it turned out to be a failure. However, instead of throwing away the idea, Pepsi Cola successfully developed the invention into a refreshment. Third is humility. The leader should be humble and restrain from expressing his ideas to let the staff think.
But if your boss is the type who loves to express his creativity, Sarun suggests techniques to deal with his ego.
"Sometimes, your creativity could affect the ego of your boss. So, when you have a new idea, you should keep it until you find a way for him to order you to think. Then, you can humbly put forth your idea ... during this, the boss would have many objections running through his head.
"Let him instruct you on what you should do next, allowing him to show off how he is cooler than you. This will feed his ego," he said.